The Fourth Monkey (4MK#1), by J.D. Barker

Nine stars

In this captivating series debut, J. D. Barker pulls the reader into the depths of a serial killer’s mind and how a spark in youth can erupt into a wildfire of indifference. Chicago Homicide Detective Sam Porter has been working to capture the Four Monkey Killer for over five years, watching as the victim count mounts with minimal clues, saving the severed pieces sent in boxes. When called to the scene of an early morning pedestrian-vehicle accident, Porter is baffled as to why he would be involved. What awaits him is perhaps the most curious and yet relieving scene; apparently the Four Monkey Killer has been neutralized after being launched through the air. Within a box like all the others, an ear sits inside and the address of a prominent real estate mogul penned on the label. Additionally, there is a diary that recounts some of the early thoughts of the killer There is little time for victory dances, as Porter must locate the victim before it’s too late. Taking time to read the diary, Porter learns that the writing depicts a man remembering his childhood and how one summer day, his peaceful life was rocked when he discovered the depravity his parents found entertaining. The reader collects much of the backstory here as the story evolves and a neighbourly indiscretion has severe consequences. With the victim completely isolated, Emory Conners tries to reason with herself to learn why she has been taken and what awaits her. Is there someone there, bantering with her, or has the terror led her to hallucinate at the worst possible moment? Just as Porter thinks he has it all figured out, the case turns on its head and the entire foundation comes crumbling down. Will the Four Monkey Killer have the final laugh in his macabre game of monkey and… zookeeper? Is Emory the final victim, or are there more in other locations, waiting to be slain as well? Barker spins a sadistic, but enthralling, story here and keeps the reader wondering until the very last page. He refuses to tie things off entirely, even at that point, paving the way for a sequel that will be much anticipated. Perfect for those who can handle some psychopathy with their thrill reading.

I have heard much about this book over the last while, as it fills my Goodreads review emails. I am happy to have taken the plunge and have already signed myself up to read and review the sequel. Barker does much in this first novel, entertaining and educating the reader on many levels. The split narrative forces the reader to keep up with three essential and interconnected pieces, while also following the progression of the individual storylines. Porter may seem like a well-adjusted detective, but he has much in his own life that has him unsettled, which only goes to thicken the plot and the development the reader finds herein. The story itself, based loosely on an expansion of the popular “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” monkeys from Chinese lore, looks to the lesser known “do no evil”, which serves as the fourth monkey. Barker explains the history while developing a gut-wrenching narrative to tie it all together. The plot itself is not overly unique, but the way it is expressed individualises the story nicely, which leaving much open for interpretation. It is one of the better psychological thrillers I have read and I can only hope that Barker will keep the series going, whether Sam Porter remains in the protagonist’s chair after the sequel or not. There is much found herein that leads the reader to see much potential and I can only hope that fans will stumble upon this book in short order and discover that the hype is justified.

Kudos, Mr. Barker for this wonderful debut. I am eager to see what else you have in store in the coming novels.

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